Paschal Epistle of Archbishop Sofroniy (ROCOR-A)

“Slake my thirsting soul with the waters of piety…”

The world is permeated with evil, and when we give in to ourselves, we are often too weak in the battle with evil.  If we are attentive to our lives, if we decide upon a path of an examined life, we are often forced to realize that we have gone astray from our path; we go in a circle and return to the beginning.  It is difficult to admit how far you are from that place, where you hoped to arrive long before.  Once again, you gather your strength, set out once again, and again, you are met with inevitable misfortunes.  People often become despondent when they realize that time has flown by and that alas it is impossible to reach that desired place.  That is when the Powerful God, adorned with a thorny crown, comes to us, reaching out with His Almighty hand and helps us to go much farther than we ever thought we could go, even when we were full of strength.  Would not such a person experience a joyful impulse towards the Lord?  Would he not exclaim, as did Apostle Nathaniel, “Thou art the Son of God!  Thou art the King of the Jews!”  It is not possible for people not to have tribulations, but those of us who believe, bear them even with a touch of gladness and voluntarily take them on in emulation of the Lord Himself.  One can humbly say, “I am a sinner,” but to truly pray like the publican, “Lord!  Have pity on me a sinner,” is indeed the most difficult prayer in the world.  It is easy to say, I believe in Christ, but to look upon Christ, the personification of grace and truth, and to receive from His trials the grace of being gracious, is far more difficult.  To call upon Christ with our mouths is possible even for an ordinary person, but to confess in one’s heart, as Peter did, that He is the Living Son of God, is a deed we are called to undertake.  “It is finished,” said God Incarnate, hanging on the cross, and gave up His spirit.  Does the heart of mankind hear the voice of love as it dies?  Does it shake your entire being?  This voice causes the sun to hide, the curtain to be torn, the earth to quake.  But what happens with ordinary Christians?  People’s hearts have turned to stone, their ears hear with difficulty, and their eyes have dimmed.  What is our heart?  An altar.  Our will? A sacrifice.  Our souls? A priest within us, to bring our will as a gift.  Those thirsting, come unto Me and be slaked!  Hear the words of the Lord, go to Him with all your soul.  Go and trust in Him.  Do not fear the cross, which stands along the path of each one of us.  The cross no longer gives off the scent of death as before, “Lo the Cross has brought joy to the entire world.”  The cross opens to us the light of the Resurrection.  To bypass the cross, is the path to ruin.  They are joyful, that have met the feast day with an open, pure heart, able to partake of this joy.

To all those pastors, monastics, and all God-loving laypeople that are dear to my heart, I call upon to raise the Paschal anthem with one heart and one voice –

Christ is Risen!

     Archbishop of St .Petersburg and Northern Russia

Pascha, 2010